Career development is one of the most common reasons people leave companies. They want to grow in their careers, don’t see the opportunity at their current company, and seek out growth opportunities elsewhere.

Employee development is a win-win situation. You help your employees gain the skills they need to progress in their careers, so they’re motivated to stay at your company. In turn, you have a strong pipeline of internal candidates who you know to be both a skill fit and culture fit. In today’s competitive talent landscape, developing talent could be your best bet in combating the skills shortage while reducing your employee turnover rate.

Help employees envision their future at your company

A great employee onboarding process should include regular check ins where you discuss your employees’ career goals and development plan. Employee development will help new employees excel in their current roles, while also preparing for future opportunities. 

Succession planning can help you match your employees’ career goals with your company’s future needs. Look at your turnover rates and average employee tenure to predict where you may need to backfill talent in the future. Also consider company leaders who may be retiring. Identify current employees who would be a good fit for those roles, and develop a career path and development plan to help them prepare. Work with your employees to set goals, so they know what it takes to move to the next step in their careers.

Offer different types of employee development

Everyone learns differently, and it can be helpful to offer many different opportunities for employee development. This might include:

  • Mentoring
  • Job shadowing
  • Stretch assignments
  • Special projects
  • Educational courses
  • Industry certifications
  • Conferences
  • Leadership coaching services
  • Career coaching services
  • Online learning subscriptions
  • Office lunch and learns

For example, you could offer to send an employee to a user conference to help them learn new software your company intends to use. Or you could send a more junior technical employee to a bootcamp to help them learn a skill your company needs. Loop those employees into a special project where they can exhibit their skills, and offer a promotion when the time is right. Employees on the management track could be offered a mentoring program and leadership coaching to help them gain the appropriate soft skills for their future roles.

Keep employee development going

Continue developing employees as they progress in their careers. It can be helpful to execute an employee crossboarding program for internal hires so you can set them up for success in their new roles. Continue regular check ins so you can stay updated on your employee’s career aspirations, and build their employee development plan accordingly. Set new goals and discuss progress during regular manager check ins.

Employees will appreciate your continued investment in their careers, and will know what their future at your organization looks like. Internal promotions can also show newer employees that there are, in fact, advancement opportunities at your company.

Don’t take resignations personally

You can’t retain your entire workforce. And you don’t want to. A resignation makes way for new minds and fresh ideas at your company. 

Similarly, your employees may experience important career growth at another company. They can work with a new team, see how things are done differently, and work on new problems and solutions. They can take the skills they learned at your company and further improve on them. This can make them a very strong candidate for your future roles—and give your company another opportunity to increase your employee lifetime value.

Accept resignations with grace and let departing employees know they always have a place at your company. An alumni program can help you stay in touch with former employees so they can consider returning when the time is right. You can already vouch for their culture-fit, skills-fit, and potential, so don’t overlook this high-quality group in your recruiting efforts.

Final thoughts on employee development and retention

There’s a well-known exchange in our industry: The CFO asks the CEO, “What happens if we invest in developing our people and they leave?” The CEO replies, “What happens if we don’t and they stay?”

Employee development requires companies to invest in their workforce and yes, there’s a good chance people will eventually leave for other opportunities. But employee development still is a worthwhile addition to your employee experience. It allows you to improve the quality of your workforce now, and build a strong pipeline of talent for open roles in the future. And, if your employee experience is strong enough, you can even hire your former employees back once they’ve built on the foundation you once offered them. 

Great talent is getting harder to come by every day. Employee development gives companies an enormous opportunity to retain and improve the talent they already have.


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The Connection Between Employee Development and Retention